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Straight from the heart

Bill Popp says his life changed forever in November 1986, the day he found his father dying on the floor in the College Point home they shared for all his life.

His father, George L. Popp, known to many as “Daddy Tapes,” was an inspiration and booster of Bill’s band, The Tapes, since 1981, when they played their first show at Gerde’s Folk City in Manhattan.

The rock outfit has been playing shows ever since that first gig, and this month will celebrate the life and legacy of Daddy Tapes as well as the 30th anniversary of that epic first outing.

“My dad was the old guy you’d see in the club, smoking a pipe in the back, watching our shows and he kept house so we could be able to continue with the band. So that’s why he was Daddy Tapes,” Popp said. “My father was really supportive of everything I did. He was like a big kid at heart, so even when he was in his 70s it was something totally unexpected for him to die. So I wanted to figure out a way of keeping him alive, so I came up with the idea of doing a benefit while I was at the funeral home.”

Popp was in the bathroom at their house when the phone started to ring that fateful day. After hearing it ring repeatedly with no answer, Bill ran to see why his father had not picked it up. That was when he found his beloved father in the midst of a severe heart attack. Emergency responders tried to bring him back from the brink, but after 45 minutes of tending to the septuagenarian, he died in front of his son.

Popp has organized a benefit party every year since his father died, donating attendees’ admission dollars to the American Heart Association in hopes of helping others avoid the heart disease that killed his father.

He and his band, whose current line-up includes Popp — the singer-songwriter of the bunch — on lead vocals and keys, Gerry Barnas on guitar, Roger Foster on drums and Mary Noecker on bass, have played the event every year, along with a number of other bands and artists, including big names like Lenny Kaye, a guitarist with the legendary Patti Smith. Each of the band’s members also contributes vocals, and the outfit has traveled the States and Europe on tour.

This year’s event should be an even bigger success, as it is the joint celebration of the two milestones. This is the first year the recommended donation is $10 instead of the customary $5, but each attendee will get a complimentary commemorative CD with tracks spanning the entire career of The Tapes.

And Popp hopes to break his record of $1,350 raised for the American Heart Association, which he set at last year’s soiree.

“I could just donate money, but I try to raise it through the effort of live music because my father tried to keep music alive in me,” Popp said. “So I try to raise money in his memory through live music for the American Heart Association.”

The story of the Popps took an interesting — and scary — twist in 2006, when Bill Popp had to postpone the 20th anniversary of the benefit because he himself had to undergo quadruple bypass surgery. Now he had fallen victim to the ailment that felled his father.

“I never thought of it in my mind that I’d be raising money to help myself,” he said. “I don’t think of it, but in a way I guess I’m helping people with heart disease and I’m one of them. I don’t think of it as having a different meaning, but it does.”

Reach reporter Connor Adams Sheets by e-mail at csheets@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.

If You Go

25th annual birthday tribute to the late George L. Popp, aka Daddy Tapes

When: March 13: pre-party starts at 3 p.m., benefit show starts at 5 p.m.

Where: Kenny’s Castaways, 157 Bleecker St., Manhattan

Why: To celebrate the life of Daddy Tapes, raise money for the American Heart Association and enjoy great live music

Who: Live music by Bill Popp & The Tapes, Sounds of Ireland, Rachael Sage, Anne Husick, Lenny Kaye, Patti Rothberg, Chapter3, The Sick F*cks, Robin’s Egg Blue and Dave McKeon & The Legal Alternatives

Cost: $10 suggested donation to American Heart Association gets one admission and commemorative CD

For more: billpopp.com or 917-475-1323

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